Riding passenger with my mother traveling back to my lux two-bedroom apartment, I suddenly burst into tears. She sat confused, and bewildered. I later learned symptoms of mental illness usually strike in the early 20’s of many young adults. I can attest to this fact, they hit hard. Unable to truly express my feelings the words ” I need help”, uttered repeatedly from my trembling mouth. My mother my mommy, my caregiver for 20 years sat silent without a word.
You must understand as an African American emotional issues are strictly dealt with stern talks, with the dismissal of mental illness. We are taught to fight despite all. So I did just that. Unbuckling my seatbelt I remembered this rule while drying my tears leaving her with the lie I’d lived with for a decade, ” I’m sorry, I lost it there huh?” smiling back. “I’m okay, I promise.” I erased the memory as I indulged in a joint of marijuana sat on my large couch, and eased my troubled mind. I promised to never speak out again.
As August approached I traveled down to conquer my junior year of college. Now, a heavy pot smoker overcome with emotions so opposite of the next I was alone elated in mania, and fearful in depression. Covered in debt and eviction notices I found myself as a college dropout involved in a lifestyle I cringe to reflect upon. One thing stayed true, survival. Bills paid with new clothes hanging in an exclusive hotel suite, and money to spend meant everything. Dabbing in serious drug use I found myself in an AutoZone parking lot. Although faint, the memory of my father placing my limp body in his car will forever stain my mind; yet mark the beginning of my recovery.
The double doors of WellStar Psych Ward welcomed me with screaming patients prickling needles, staff gossip. Shuffling through the dim hall a male guard awaited me for a strip down. A gown was tossed my way, as I stood naked trembling to cover what was mine. I spoke not a word as they pierced me with needles leaving my arms bruised and blue. A male nurse with an aura of joy grabbed my hand with such assurance I will never forget his simple words. “You’re special the hard part is over, you are going to be more than fine.” I never saw him again, but my smile and hope began to grow. Moments later an emergency stretcher and ambulance led me to yet another hospital, Ridgeview Institute.
Welcomed by a beautiful woman, I silenced her words and felt her sincerity kind heart comfort me. Tossing back my tiny white paper cup with a shot of water sleep fell upon me like never before. My eyes opened to a chalkboard in the distance. I read my name then shifted my eyes above to read “Suicide Watch”. The stiff chair was only an option as there was a room before me. Politely refusing a kickback seat blanket, and books I scanned the silent disturbed, and recovering patients behind the glass room for all to see. Dull crayons coffee, and nicotine filled my day. Yet as time passed still with no diagnosis, I chattered amongst fellow smokers and claimed anxiety put me in this place. Laughter flooded the one area of freedom, and pleasure. Titled as a spy, I tossed my bummed Marlboro walked inside, and sat alone. I was the only African American woman there my age. My peers were young but Caucasian. This situation seemed to be of the norm or accepted for them atleast. As time passed I remained calm. I was friendly, yet quite and observant. Ensuring to follow protocol, I found my way home only three days later. Returning to no car friends, or life, I was left with “Paige, you are Bipolar.” Life as I knew was now spent with various doctors three to four time a week, as pills flooded my kitchen countertop night by night.
The fear of the unknown and forbidden had happened. My parents although scared and concerned, I resented them their ignorance, and denial. A two-time suicide survivor since the age of 12 was gone unnoticed, and unheard. 10 years later they stand by me strong educated, loving, and supportive.
I look around and my peers deserve a voice. Their fear should be shaken shame uplifted, and silence broken. My dear families please hear the cries bursting through drug overdose alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, and climbing suicides rates. Listen to the pain shown only by accident. Disregard our historical ignorance; embrace the strength instilled in us to save you. Speak within yourself embrace your voice, and speak out. Please help me save my peers.
I am 25 years old native of Atlanta, Ga. I wish to obtain a master’s degree in Psychology in the near future. Gaining a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a focus in Public Relations I truly enjoy providing the public with truthful, yet useful knowledge of unspoken issues. It is a delight to witness the growing movement of mental health awareness amongst many activists within my own community, and those afar. I would be untrue to myself and my own experiences to ignore the issue of miscommunication amongst minorities, especially the African American community. Through my learning experiences life, and schooling I see the need for a voice to be heard. I come from an amazing family with a beautiful brother sister-in-law and nephew, but this is my biography. This is my passion and what I stand for. I am outspoken and transparent about my illness to everyone because this is my greater purpose that I refuse to pass me by. It has been a difficult journey yet powerful. Giving me my purpose of life and guidance toward my future, again I say this is my biography. Paige Gaines, also known as Sane Jane. A 25-year-old African American woman ready to fight the stigma in society and that of my peers to help those in desperate need, just as I only four years back.
SaneJane can be found on her Twitter and blog.
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You’re very brave baby girl to have stepped forward, kicking down the wall of silence and stigma that has long been a problem within the our community. Uncle D is proud of you, and my brother; your Dad is even prouder. Keep striving and pushing onward because often times by helping others we help ourselves.
Love your courage to speak up and speak out to share your story. What we go through is our testament and if we do not share it, then we will go through something worst or like it later in life or even stay stuck in a certain recycle of events. Glad I was able to read your story and may you fulfill your calling to the utmost. Keep pushing!!!
Thank you for being so brave and opening up eyes that have been sealed shut for far too long. This is the beginning, for all of us. Your vulnerability is appreciated beautiful.